African American man smile. Dental health care.

Research has long shown that men are notorious for not taking good care of themselves or ignoring medical warning signs, which is perhaps why they are generally less healthy and have shorter life expectancies than women. Out of the 15 leading causes of death, including stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes and cancer, men lead women in all but one.

Good oral health is linked with longevity, but men tend to ignore their oral health as well. Men brush their teeth less frequently, change their toothbrushes less frequently and are less likely to seek preventative dental care than their female counterparts. The average male will lose five or more teeth by age 72; double that if he uses tobacco products. Men are more likely to develop periodontal disease, oral and throat cancer, and sleep apnea.

But there is a silver lining. Many of the issues that plague men, especially those connected to their oral health, are treatable, even curable, when caught early. In honor of Men’s Health Month, if you are a man (or you love one), educate yourself on the oral health issues you’re most at-risk for.

Bleeding gums are more than just a nuisance

According to the CDC, half of all Americans over the age of 30 have gum disease. That amounts to more than 64 million people with mild, moderate or severe periodontitis. The chronic inflammatory disease is caused by the bacteria in plaque, the sticky, colorless film that is constantly forming on your teeth. Without proper brushing and flossing, and regular dental visits, the bacteria can affect not only the gum tissue, but also the bone supporting the teeth, eventually leading to tooth loss.

Research shows that periodontal disease is prevalent in individuals with other chronic inflammatory diseases, like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and could even be an early indicator for both. Patients who have chronic periodontal disease are at a higher risk for heart attack, and gum disease could actually contribute to heart disease because bacteria from infected gums can dislodge, enter the bloodstream, attach to blood vessels and increase clot formation.

Men of all ages are more likely than women to have periodontal disease. While only 23 percent of women aged 30 to 54 have gum disease, 34 percent of males in the same age group are affected. For men aged 55 to 90, that percentage increases to 56, while 44 percent of women in the same category have gum disease. Common signs of gum disease include:

  • Red, swollen or tender gums
  • Gums that bleed during brushing or flossing
  • Receding gums or gums that have pulled away from teeth
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Changes in your bite or loose/separating teeth

The good news is that periodontal disease can be treated, and the damage can be minimized when caught it its earliest stages. Good oral hygiene, visiting the dentist regularly and a healthy diet are the first steps in gum disease treatment – and keeping it at bay in the first place.

Caffaratti Dental Group is highly experienced in periodontal disease treatment at every stage, and we can help you maintain your oral health after a periodontal cleaning or dental procedures. The first step, especially for the more than 33 percent of men who haven’t visited a dentist in the past year, is to make an appointment.

Treating dry mouth to limit tooth decay

More than just keeping your mouth moist, your saliva actually prevents infection by controlling bacteria in the mouth, cleanses your mouth by neutralizing acids, and washes away dead skin cells on your gums, teeth and tongue. When you don’t make enough saliva, you can experience dry mouth, which increases your risk of gum disease, tooth decay and mouth infections.

Since men are more likely to suffer from heart attacks than women, they also are more likely to be on medications that can cause dry mouth. Other prescription and nonprescription drugs used to treat depression, allergies, obesity and high blood pressure can also increase the risk of dry mouth, and therefore the risk of cavities and gum disease. Common symptoms of dry mouth include:

  • A sticky, dry mouth, or dry throat
  • Frequent thirst
  • A red, raw tongue, or burning or tingling sensation on the tongue or the mouth
  • Sores in the mouth or cracked lips
  • Sore throat, hoarseness or dry nasal passages
  • Persistent bad breath

Dry mouth is also a treatable condition. Brushing, flossing and visiting your dentist regularly are key first steps. Medications that cause dry mouth can sometimes be adjusted, or Caffaratti Dental Group can asses your situation to determine if a mouth rinse or medication that boosts saliva flow would be appropriate.

Detecting oral cancer early

More than 40,000 Americans were diagnosed with oral cancer in 2014. Men are affected twice as often as women by oral cancer, with those over the age of 50 facing the greatest risk. In fact, 95 percent of oral cancers occur in individuals over 40 years of age.

Attractive senior maleMen who smoke, chew or drink have a greater risk for gum disease and oral cancer. Cigarette, cigar or pipe smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop oral cancer. Those who use dip, snuff or chewing tobacco are 50 times more likely to develop cancer of the cheek, gums and lining of the lips. Oral cancers are six times more likely in those who consume excessive alcohol. But, even men who don’t drink or smoke are still more likely than women to have oral cancer.

Catching oral cancer in its early stages is key, which makes regular dental visits and self exams imperative. Common signs of oral cancer include:

  • Lumps, bumps, rough spots or swellings on the lips, gums or inside the mouth
  • White, red or speckled patches inside the mouth
  • Persistent sores on the face, neck or mouth
  • Chronic sore throat or hoarseness
  • Unexplained bleeding in the mouth, or unexplained numbness or pain in the face, mouth or neck
  • Persistent feeling that something is caught in the throat
  • A change in bite, loose teeth or poorly fitting dentures
  • Difficult or painful chewing, swallowing or speaking
  • Jaw or tongue pain or stiffness

The American Cancer Society recommends oral cancer screenings every three years for those over age 20, and every year for patients over age 40. Our team at Caffaratti Dental Group screens for oral cancer, looking for lumps, sores and irregular tissue changes. If we see anything suspicious, we can perform a biopsy to further analyze your tissue.

Snoring can indicate sleep apnea

The greatest risk factors for sleep apnea are being male, overweight and over the age of 40. One in five adults suffers from at least mild sleep apnea. The potentially life-threatening sleep disorder causes a pause in breath or shallow breathing during sleep, and it occurs when the tissue in the back of the throat collapses and blocks the airway. Men are twice as likely to suffer from sleep apnea as women, possibly due to their more collapsable airway.

Man sleeps in office on table over laptop with coffee in handAn individual with sleep apnea may experience pauses in breathing five to 30 times an hour, or even more, during sleep. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, arrhythmia, heart failure and stroke. Obstructive sleep apnea, which often develops from snoring, has long been known as an indicator of heart disease; in fact, it puts you at 25 percent higher risk for heart attack. Poor sleep, like that resulting from sleep apnea, is even associated with lower life expectancy. In fact, sleeping five hours or less per night can increase mortality risk by 15 percent. Common signs of sleep apnea or sleep disorders include:

  • Loud snoring, pauses in breathing, or waking up gasping or choking, all usually noted by a sleeping partner
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Daytime sleepiness and/or falling asleep during the day
  • Unrefreshed sleep

Trained sleep disorder dentists, like the team at Caffaratti Dental Group, can diagnose and help treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea. We begin by evaluating a traditional sleep study, or providing you a take-home sleep test device, which charts the same things an overnight sleep study would. Because it’s worn in your normal environment, it provides a better overall profile of the your typical sleep patterns and sleep health.

If we determine you have mild to moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea, and that your condition wouldn’t respond to behavioral changes or you can’t tolerate a CPAP, we recommend oral appliance therapy to improve your sleep health. Similar to a mouthguard or retainer, customized oral appliances prevent the collapse of throat tissue and the tongue, remodel the upper airway and move the lower jaw forward into a more natural position, increasing the size of the airway and dramatically improving your ability to breathe. There are a variety of oral appliances available, and based on your diagnosis, we can determine the most effective oral appliance therapy option for you.

We provide ongoing care to ensure the appliance is both comfortable to wear and effectively treating your Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Our goal is to address the underlying cause of your sleep apnea, improve your sleep health and successfully reduce your likelihood of related complications like heart disease, depression, stroke and obesity.

It’s OK to ask for help

Whether you’re male or female, go to the dentist regularly or it’s been awhile since your last checkup, at Caffaratti Dental Group, we will help you feel comfortable, relaxed and taken care of. For those who feel especially anxious about visiting the dentist, we are pleased to offer sedation dentistry. If you, or your partner, are concerned that you’re showing symptoms of periodontal disease, dry mouth, oral cancer or sleep apnea, we can help with your diagnosis and treatment. Call today at (775) 358-1555 and let us help improve your oral health, and your overall health.